Essek is coming to Caleb’s home for his short annual stay. Beau and Yasha are coming to dinner, and also to calm Caleb down a bit because one of their big cases is in deliberation and Caleb’s been a bundle of raw nerves. They’re over early so that Yasha can bake fresh cookies. Caleb is fretting over the menu and finally settles on a curated and complimentary series of soups.
Beau watches him meticulously planning this out like a big detailed world-alerting spell and says, “You know you’re still in love with him, right Caleb?”
Caleb pauses and looks somewhere between bewildered and caught. “He… He is my friend and I don’t get to spend a lot of time with him. I want it to be nice.”
Beau: “Okay, but you do realize you could have a simple meal and we’d all still enjoy it, right? You’re planning this meal out like your tower to celebrate his favorite food. And I’ve seen the way you two look at each other. You’re not big on eye contact Caleb, except with him. You’re both very measured in your words but don’t think I haven’t noticed the double meaning to everything you two say. I don’t think I’ve seen you sit on a couch together not touching since Aeor and half the time you look at each other like you’re about to kiss. I’m beginning to think sexual tension and regret might just be a kink for you.”
Caleb looks helplessly flabbergasted at her and at a loss for words, but with a look that says she’s not far off the mark.
Beau: “You know this is a choice, right? Yasha killed a bunch of Cobalt Soul people and we got them to drop the charges because she wasn’t in control. Trent is in jail. We have 5 cases pending against people working for the Cerberus Assembly for corruption and abuse and we’re getting closer to Ludinus. Essek is a key witness if we can build the case. We can find some way of protecting him that would let you be together. You’re doing this to yourself, man. You don’t have to keep pining to punish yourselves. Aren’t you the one who said ‘Let yourself a bit of happiness’?”
Caleb looks at her like he’s been exposed. He anxiously replies, “Beau, you know it’s more complicated than that. I’m already skirting the line on treason. I’ve been arrested twice, once in front of my class. Even if you kept three charges from sticking. If Essek and I were caught together they’d sounds it as me being a double agent. It could endanger all our work. My happiness is stopping these people. And there’s such a gap between Essek and I aging. I’m not going to be able to keep up for long, and then I’ll be gone.”
Beau gives him a sympathetic look. “When we were trying to make the deal with that hag, I nearly threw away everything I had with all of you because I was so afraid I’d lose it anyway and at this way I’d have control over it. You’re always worried about not having enough time. But when time matters most to you, you’re pushing it away. It won’t hurt less because you make it happen faster. You’ll just have more time to torment yourself, and you don’t deserve that.”
Caleb’s been staring at his knees and nervously scratching at his arms. He closes his eyes in a wince, and struggles with what he could say.
Beau continues, “Do what you need to, Caleb. If this thing you have going on eases your mind, keep doing it. But we’ll make something work for the two of you if you want. We have your backs. You don’t have to go through this alone if you don’t want to. You’ve been denied enough love in your lives to do this to yourselves. He’d do anything for you. And so would I.”
Caleb says quietly while averting his eyes, “Thank you, Beau. I think tonight I just want a nice dinner and to not think about the future.”
She smiles sadly at him and gets up. She pulls a vegetable cook book off the shelf. She says, “I’ve read a bunch of these waiting for you to get out of class and office hours.” She flips to a page. “There’s a recipe in here for a blended cold soup with watercress, cucumber, avocado, dill, sour cream, and some other stuff. It’s like a savory salad smoothie. I think Essek would really like it.” She walks back and hands him the open book. She sits down next to him and puts a hand on his arm in their tender and familiar way. “I love you man. I worry about how much you hide from the parts of the world you love the most. You’re worthy of love and happiness. However you can find it. If you don’t think you can do more than sporadic visits safely, just make the most of them and don’t hold yourselves back. You’ve found something as rare and special as I have with Yasha. Don’t let it go.”
Caleb replies, feeling a little too seen, “Ja, okay. We will see. I have to keep getting ready. Thank you for the recipe… and the advice.” He touches her arm in the way he reaches out for comfort. Then he gets up and leaves the room to give the recipe to his cat servants to conjure.